BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT: Inside the American Jury System by Melvyn Bernard Zerman

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT: Inside the American Jury System

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KIRKUS REVIEW

How ""the jury system actually operates in courtrooms throughout the United States""--beginning with the selection of the jurors, where minority-group members and educated women are likely to be weeded out by the prosecutor's peremptory challenge, crime victims by the defense attorney's, and either lawyer can badger a prospective juror to set up a challenge for cause. Zerman follows court procedure, taking readers through the experience they would have as actual jurors, and illustrates each step along the way with dialogue-packed examples. ""Alone at Last"" (as the chapter heading has it) after the testimony is heard, the jurors go through pages of deliberations (all lively and colloquial) on various hypothetical cases, demonstrating how their personalities, prejudices, and political views influence their interaction and their decisions. (""Sure he ran a gambling joint, but what harm did he do?"" Or, on a murder case: ""'It's his first offense.' 'So? Are we supposed to let him go free so he can commit a second?'"") In the end Zerman reviews criticisms of the system (the most serious flaw being the under-representation of minorities), considers the suggestion of an Ohio judge that trials be videotaped to save the jurors time and extraneous input; and finally defends the practice of having citizens tried by ""twelve people of average ignorance."" Zerman avoids historical summaries and theoretical explanations in favor of a readable and dramatic, but not sensational, projection of the way the jury system works.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1981
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell